This carrot cake sets the now high standard for carrot cakes everywhere. It’s insanely moist and filled with raisins and pecans. Most of its flavor comes from brown sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, and (of course) shredded carrots.
Normally, I’m not the biggest fan of carrot cakes. I’ve had far too many dry, flavorless versions, and contrary to popular opinion, I dislike cream cheese frosting. Last weekend, we celebrated a few family birthdays at my mom’s house and turned up my nose when she said she was making a carrot cake. When she mentioned that she made it gluten free, I offered to take a polite bite, then immediately asked her for the recipe. She has an incredible way with baked goods, and always has. As did my grandma.
This cake is soft and loaded with spices and bold flavors. She topped it with our family vanilla buttercream frosting too, and I absolutely fell in love with this dessert. It’s adapted from an NYT Cooking recipe, and I’m confident you will love it as much as my family does. Recipe yields one 3 layer 8″ round cake.
Bake one today, and share it with the people you love!
For the cake
- 2 cups AP flour (or sub a 1:1 gluten-free flour), plus 2 tbsp to coat the walnuts and raisins
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tbsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp cardamom
- 1/4 tsp cloves
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 3 cups grated carrots (approximately 6-8 large carrots)
- 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans (or walnuts)
- 1/2 cup raisins (golden if you can find them)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1.5 packed cup brown sugar
- 1 cup avocado oil
- 4 large eggs
- 6 oz unsweetened applesauce
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
For the frosting
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) room temp butter
- 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 lb confectioners sugar
- 1/3-1/2 cup whole milk (start with 1/3, then add more if it’s not spreadable)
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour three 8″ round cake pans. Flour the insides and tap out the excess. (I also like to line the bottom with parchment paper.)
- Whisk together the flour, salt, spices, baking soda and powder. Set aside. In another bowl, stir the raisins and pecans with the 2 tbsp flour to coat, then mix in the shredded carrots.
- In your mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the sugar, applesauce, vanilla and oil together for 1-2 minutes until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time until combined.
- Reduce mixer to medium low speed and slowly add in the dry ingredients until just combined. Gently stir in the carrots, raisins and nuts.
- Divide the batter evenly between the 3 cake pans. Bake them on the middle rack in your oven for 40-45 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean, rotating the pans halfway through your bake.
- Allow them to cool 30 minutes before removing from the cake pans, then cool completely on wire racks.
- For the frosting: using your mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, cream together all ingredients 2-3 minutes.
- To frost the cake (making sure it’s completely cooled): spread a generous layer between each layer and the top, spreading evenly. I prefer to leave the sides unfrosted, but you have enough to cover them if you wish. Top with whole pecans for decoration if you’re feeling fancy.